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Twin explosions at a Siberian mine kill 12 and trap others

MOSCOW — Twin methane gas explosions killed 12 coal miners and trapped 80 underground in western Siberia under conditions so dangerous that officials called off all rescue operations for fear of sending additional men to their deaths.

Prime Minister Vladimir Putin called the situation “very, very hard” and “tragic.” He ordered the emergency situations minister, Sergei Shoigu, to leave for Siberia to supervise rescue operations.

The first blast rocked one of Russia’s largest coal mines, the Raspadskaya, just before 9 p.m. Saturday, when more than 312 workers were inside. Hundreds had made it to the surface when, four hours later, a second blast destroyed the main air shaft, trapping the miners and rescue workers inside amid dangerous levels of methane.

Gov. Aman Tuleyev, the top official in the Kemerovo region, where the mine is located, said, “To carry out rescue work now means to send people to die.”

BP chief lacks confidence in oil leak fix, more problems likely

VENICE, La. — As a crew began lowering a giant steel container 5,000 feet below the ocean’s surface on Thursday evening to capture oil leaking from a ruptured oil well, the top executive of BP said he was not actually counting on it to work.

“It’s only one of the battle fronts,” said the chief executive, Tony Hayward, as his leased Sikorsky helicopter hovered 1,000 feet above the spot where the Deepwater Horizon drilling platform exploded on April 20, sending oil spurting into the Gulf of Mexico. BP was leasing the rig from the owner, Transocean.

The containment dome was lowered on cables above the ruptured well, and officials expected to have it in position over the major leak on Thursday night.

But Doug Suttles, BP’s chief operating officer, cautioned that this was an experimental approach at these depths, and that problems were likely to arise. He said it could take a week to get it working smoothly.

—Clifford Krauss, The New York Times

Convoy and checkpoint shootings of Afghan civilians on rise

KABUL, Afghanistan ­— Shootings of Afghan civilians by American and NATO convoys and at military checkpoints have spiked sharply this year, surpassing aerial bombings and other attacks as the leading cause of war-related deaths and injuries, American officials say.

The steep rise in these convoy and checkpoint attacks — which the military calls “escalation of force incidents” — has prompted military commanders to issue new troop guidelines in recent weeks that include soliciting local Afghan village and tribal elders and other leaders for help preventing convoy and checkpoint shootings.

These shootings are a major reason civilian casualties in Afghanistan are soaring after a much-publicized period of decline.

Such episodes “have taken the lead” in civilian casualties caused by Western forces, said Lt. Gen. David Rodriguez, the day-to-day operational commander of American and NATO forces in Afghanistan. “We’ve really got to figure out how to solve that problem, and it’s really a challenge to the leadership. It’s a challenge to discipline.”

At least 28 Afghans have been killed and 43 wounded in convoy and checkpoint shootings this year — 42 percent of total civilian deaths and injuries and the largest overall source of casualties at the hands of American and NATO troops, according to statistics kept by the military.